Can Justin Trudeau’s high approval numbers survive Canada’s lagging economy?

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday September 13, 2016.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday September 13, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Justin Trudeau’s approval numbers are riding high with nearly two-in-three Canadians saying they approve of Trudeau’s performance according to a new poll. But with Canada’s jobs market stumbling how long will his popularity last?

The new data from the Angus Reid Institute show 65 per cent of people surveyed say they approve of Trudeau’s on-the-job performance, more than double the 30 per cent who disapprove.

READ MORE: Canada’s unemployment rate rises to 7% despite strong August job growth

When it came to how Canadians viewed their current standard of living from a year ago, 52 per cent of respondents said it was the same, 31 per cent said they were worse off, and 16 per cent said they better off from a year ago.

On other key issues facing the Trudeau government:

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  • 65 per cent said they approve of safety and security management in Canada
  • 55 per cent approve of management of infrastructure
  • 54 approve of Canada’s foreign policy
  • 48 per cent approve of the country’s health care

The polls shows Trudeau’s numbers are the highest they’ve been since the 2015 general election and they surpass his 63 per cent approval numbers from last December.

However, the Canadian economic outlook is grim with unemployment back up to seven per cent with 36,000 full-time jobs disappearing over the past year, and nearly 1.4 million Canadians out of work, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada.

READ MORE: Raising concerns about economy, Bank of Canada keeps key interest rate unchanged at 0.5%

And while exports bounced back in July, exports have fallen seven per cent over the last 12 months, according to StatsCan.

Experts say despite the bleak economic picture, Trudeau’s sunny approval numbers continue to hold because the opposition parties are in disarray and Canadians still like his positive tone.

“He doesn’t have any real political competition at the moment meaning there are no permanent leaders of the opposition parties,” said Tim Powers, a Conservative strategist with Summa Strategies.

“When people are asked to compare Justin Trudeau to Tom Mulcair or Rona Ambrose, they have an awareness that neither of them will be there next election.”

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READ MORE: Increased exports are good, but there’s still trouble on the economic front, experts say

Both the NDP and the Conservatives are in the process of choosing new leaders.

“You often fare better when you’re playing against an invisible opposition,” he said.

Ian Lee, a professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, said he believes Canadians rejected the negative tone of the former Harper government.

“People repudiated Harper’s tone, and his tenor, and the meanness and nastiness that seemed to permeate through the Harper years,” said Lee. “These numbers are the aggregate collective sigh of relief of Canadians that Harper is gone.”

Data from the ARI institute showed that during Harper’s years with a majority government his approval ratings never reached above 42 per cent.

Lee said Trudeau’s popularity could fall off after the NDP and Conservatives complete their leadership review.

“So far [Trudeau’s] been to pull it off, but once the Conservatives choose a leader  … I would think  his numbers will come down a bit,” he said. “Right now there is blooming confusion in both opposition parties right now.”

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